The Happy Writer with Marissa Meyer

Kristen Simmons - Find Him Where You Left Him Dead

October 02, 2023 Marissa Meyer Season 2023 Episode 172
The Happy Writer with Marissa Meyer
Kristen Simmons - Find Him Where You Left Him Dead
Show Notes Transcript
In this week’s episode, Marissa chats with Kristen Simmons about her YA horror, FIND HIM WHERE YOU LEFT HIM DEAD, which has been described (by past guest Kendare Blake!) as “Jumanji but Japanese-inspired”. Also discussed: How rejection can be deeply painful but that being a writer is what you are, regardless of the outside reaction to your work, leveling up as a writer, the challenge and fun in writing a large cast of characters and multiple POVs, deciding how much mythology to use in a book that has deep cultural inspirations, crafting a game and challenges with the kinds of prizes that no one wants, and so much more! 

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[00:10] Marissa: Hello, and welcome to the Happy Writer. This is a podcast that aims to bring readers more books to enjoy and to help authors find more joy in their writing. I am your host, Marissa Meyer. Thank you for joining me. One thing making me happy this week is that in two days, the girls, Sloan and Delaney and I are going on our first mother daughter's road trip. We are going through Idaho, eastern Washington and Idaho and into Utah. Because when I was there for the heartless musical, I saw a painting at an antique store and kind of fell in love with it and decided to buy it even though it was huge and we couldn't bring it back on the airplane and I didn't want to pay for shipping. So we have decided to go on a little road trip. We're going to go to a dinosaur museum. We're going to have lunch with my college roommate who I have not seen in ages. I'm super excited to see her. I think we're going to maybe go out with some of the producers behind the Heartless Musical and I am so looking forward to it. And just like, I don't know, being in the car and listening to hours and hours of audiobooks together, I think we are going to have a blast. I am also so happy to be talking to today's guest. She is the critically acclaimed author of the Dystopian article five trilogy, the Deceivers boarding school thriller series and the standalones Pacifica Metal Town and The Glass Arrow. She has also co written the gladiator fantasies, set fire to the gods and rise up from the embers. Her newest. Aya horror. Find him where you left him. Dead. Came out last week. Please welcome Kristen Simmons.

[02:02] Kristen: I'm so excited to be here. I was going to try to tone down the enthusiasm but I'm really, really excited.

[02:09] Marissa: Thank you so much. Toning down necessary. I'm glad you're excited. I am also excited. You are one of those writers we were actually just talking, I guess we did meet like twelve years ago but I don't actually remember this. And you're one of those writers where I hear about you and we have mutual friends in common. But this is our first time getting to know each other and I am so excited.

[02:33] Kristen: I know, it's so awesome. It's so awesome to finally formally meet you, I guess, and talk to you and yeah, not just cross paths in the writer sphere but like talk, talk.

[02:46] Marissa: It's going to be so fun. Thank you for joining me and congratulations on your new book coming out.

[02:53] Kristen: Thank you.

[02:53] Marissa: I know. So here we are on the eve of your launch as of this recording. Things going well? Are you excited?

[03:00] Kristen: I'm so excited. I'm so excited. And this book has been this was kind of like a delayed release because there was like COVID and stuff that happened in the process of all of this. So I feel like I've been waiting for this moment for a really long time, and now it's here and I am just like I'm just overjoyed to have this book be able to be out in the world to scare people, basically.

[03:26] Marissa: Well, and what perfect timing. Coming up on Halloween. It is a great just like spooky, dark, creepy fall read. It was perfect.

[03:37] Kristen: Yes, I think it's going to be a great grab a blanket, grab some hot tea, and just lock in for the night kind of book and let yourself be scared and be terrified.

[03:53] Marissa: All right, before we start talking about the book itself, I want to start by knowing your origin story. What are the twists and turns of your life that brought you to being an author? Oh, my gosh.

[04:06] Kristen: Well, when you say origin story, I can't help but think villain origin stories.

[04:12] Marissa: That's what we're going for. All of my guests are villains, I'm convinced.

[04:17] Kristen: Yes. Well, let me start with my villain origin story. Well, yeah. I think the twists and turns that led me to this are mostly about just growing up, being half Japanese, living in an area that is predominantly white and being the girl that was a little bit different and trying to kind of wrap my mind around what that meant. As I grew up and even into my adulthood was trying to figure out who I am, how I fit in the world and what this means. And so I think that's kind of the basis for this story in these characters, is trying to figure out who they are as people, who they are as friends and what that means to them personally. So that's kind of like the deepest layer of all this. And then one of the things that my son and I do, I have an eleven year old son, and we have moved to an area that also doesn't have a huge Asian population. And so one thing that we do every week is we have a standing date called Japanese Tuesday, where we get together and we talk about what it means to be Japanese. And sometimes that means eating food, and sometimes that means reading fairy tales and mythology. Sometimes that means learning new words, or watching videos, or consuming art and just finding different ways to learn about our culture together. And for me to pass on the things that I know about our culture since there's not, like I said, not a lot of influence from the outside where we live. And one of the things that he became just absolutely fascinated with were Yokai. And I think like many people, he was just like, whoa, tell me more about this.

[06:16] Marissa: Truly, the Japanese have some of the best monsters and ghosts.

[06:20] Kristen: Yes, they're so absolutely. And so we became just like treasure hunters, just searching, searching, searching for information on Yokai. And we learned about all different kinds. And there are about a million. We learned about different monsters as well, oni which are demons, and shinigamis, which are kind of death reapers, like Grim Reaper reapers. We learned about all sorts of monsters and ghosts, like you said. And the more we talked about them, the more we kind of creeped each other out, and the more I thought, oh, my gosh, this is the book. This is the next book is people who get stuck having to face these monsters, these yokai. And so that is where find him, where you left him dead really began.

[07:14] Marissa: I love that. I would like to be invited to Japanese Tuesday.

[07:18] Kristen: Yes, please come join us.

[07:24] Marissa: The more the merrier.

[07:26] Kristen: Yeah, it's really fun, and it's great. Sometimes it's short and sometimes it's longer, and we really enjoy it.

[07:34] Marissa: Yeah. And you mentioned that this was a COVID project, but I know your first book came out years and years ago somewhere around 2012, because we were published around the same time, our debut novels, around the same time together before that. Had you been working to become a writer for many, many years. Was it a dream from childhood? Did you go to school for writing? How did that come about?

[08:02] Kristen: This is the origin story, right? You gave us the origin for the book.

[08:07] Marissa: I want to hear your origin story.

[08:09] Kristen: Here we go. Here we go. Sit down, grab your coffee.

[08:13] Marissa: How much time we got?

[08:14] Kristen: Okay. Yeah. No, I think I always knew that I wanted to be a writer. I think from the time I was very young, I was writing short stories. I was writing stories about my dog. I was writing stories as a kid about people that I knew. And again, as kind of a quiet person, a very shy person and a little bit of an outsider, I was starting to realize the power of making yourself a hero in those stories. So I was writing those kinds of stories growing up. And then when I was in high school, I had a teacher who kept one of my essays, and he said, kristen, I think you've got something here. And at the time, I thought, like, that means I'm going to be a famous yes. Yes. Naturally, it just advanced to that next step, but I didn't truly grasp the meaning of it for a long time. So I ended up going to college. I got a degree in psychology, and I got a master's in social work. And during this whole time, I am writing novels, and I was sending them out to literary agents trying to get bites. And the first novel I wrote, I sent out, I don't know, a stack of 20 letters because we weren't emailing queries at that time. And then every day I went to my mailbox and I waited, and the post man delivered another rejection and another rejection and another rejection, and I got all no's. And I kind of couldn't believe it. Because I thought I don't get this. I am a novelist. I am a writer. My teacher in high school saw it, and I feel it. So why is that not translating? Like, I wrote a book? Isn't that what you do? And I kind of didn't get it, but you carry on. So I wrote another book. I wrote another batch of queries. I sent them out, and I think I doubled it at that point. And another huge batch of rejections, one after another after another. And it was sometime around then that I started getting very self conscious and very ashamed of what I was doing because how can this person that I believe that I am, that I think that I am not be easily seen from the outside? What is this disconnect here? And I started having this crisis of confidence and also just, like, misunderstanding of who I was and compared to who I was presenting myself as. And it was really hard. Can I pause and just ask about.

[11:15] Marissa: How far into your journey were you at this point? How many years?

[11:19] Kristen: So we're talking at this point, it's probably two or three years.

[11:23] Marissa: Okay.

[11:24] Kristen: Yeah. So again, carry on. But this time, I think around the third book I wrote, I really stopped talking to people about it, so I stopped telling people that I was writing a book. I stopped even my family talking about it. And it was something I very quietly did on lunch breaks and before work and after work. And again, I'm getting degrees to be a social worker at this point, which I loved and I did for many years and I loved. And it was another batch of queries that I sent out, another round of rejections and just further into that spiral of like, okay, maybe I'm not a writer because I'm not getting published. And that's what it is, right? If you're a writer, you get published. So I must not be a writer. And it was so painful. I just remember times just being so hurt by that assumption that I had. And then I wrote another one, right? Like, you just keep writing these books. And again, another round of rejections. And then it was when I wrote my fifth book. I was driving home, and there was this protest outside of a bookstore, and the 7th Harry Potter had just come out, and a bunch of people were out there protesting its release, saying that it was filled with witchcraft and we couldn't have children exposed to witchcraft. And I remember watching I pulled over and I watched them, and I was just so fascinated, thinking about censorship. I mean, censorship is so in the news right now, but wasn't as much then, and censorship and what that means. And I was thinking about, well, what if they succeed? What if there is no Harry Potter? And what if these kids grow up without that influence? Regardless which way you feel about that, just the idea of it and what would happen if you could censor more things and books and music and media and start finding people for them or arresting people for these offenses. And I went home and I wrote the first pages of what would later become Article Five. So I ended up writing that in just a flurry. And I sent out another batch of query letters, and I told myself I remember telling myself, this is it. If this doesn't work, then it hurts too much. Like, maybe this is it for me. And I guess the planets aligned because I got a few bites. And that was the book that hooked me up with my agent, and she was able to sell that as a trilogy. After a bunch of revision, we had to revise it quite a bit. But that was the first book that was my start. And now Find Him where you left him. Dead will be my 19th published.

[14:29] Marissa: 19Th. Oh, my gosh.

[14:31] Kristen: Yeah. So it took me ten years, a solid ten years from the time that I submitted my first book to agents with query letters, to the time I actually held my own novel in my hand.

[14:47] Marissa: And do you think if Article Five had not sold, do you think that it really was going to be the last one?

[14:56] Kristen: I don't think so. Now, looking back in hindsight, I think I had a hard time with the rejection, and that was incredibly painful. But I think if you are something, you can't deny that thing. Right. Like, I am a writer. I woke up, I wanted to write, I saw things, I wanted to put them in stories. I met people, they became characters. Like, I am a writer. That is who I am. And it doesn't matter if I'm making money for it or if I'm not making money for it. I see the world as a story, and that's how it's going to be. And I think that's true for anyone. If you're a basketball player, if you're a person that's an actor or whatever, if you are something, it doesn't matter how many people tell you, no, you are that thing. If you believe it, then you are. And I think at the end of the day, that's what I would have realized. It wouldn't have mattered if I had gone another 40 years not finding an agent or not being published. I am a writer. I just had to accept that that was true and it didn't matter what other people were saying about it.

[16:13] Marissa: Yeah. No. So true. I know. I often get asked, if you weren't a writer, what else would you be? And my answer is, an aspiring writer. There was just never going to be a time where I think that I could have stopped.

[16:29] Kristen: Right?

[16:29] Marissa: Yeah. It's just in our blood.

[16:31] Kristen: Yeah. And the part of us that's like, I would have stopped is the self preservation. Right. Is like that, oh, this is painful, getting all this reduced.

[16:41] Marissa: Yeah, no, definitely.

[16:43] Kristen: But the deeper part of us is like, no.

[16:47] Marissa: I do think that it can be healthy for a person to step back from maybe the dream of publication occasionally or the path we're trying to take, whether it's through querying agents or whatever it is, it's okay to step back and take a break from that if you need to recover emotionally. And that's fine and can be really good. But that doesn't change the fact that you're still a writer.

[17:13] Kristen: Yeah, absolutely.

[17:16] Marissa: Okay, so now here we are, number 19. I can't believe that. I think I'm on 17. And usually people are wowed by how many I've done in these last twelve years and you've beat me.

[17:31] Kristen: Kristen, we've been at this not by much. We've been at this a long time, girl.

[17:39] Marissa: So tell listeners what is find him where you left him dead about.

[17:45] Kristen: Oh, my gosh. Okay. Find Him where you left Him Dead is about five kids who go into a cave, messing around and find some cards and play a game, and one of them does not make it out. And years later, they are all visited by the ghost of that kid that did not make it out and told that if they finish the game, they may be able to save him, and if they don't finish the game, they're just going to be haunted to death. So they might as well go and.

[18:15] Marissa: Finish the game or trapped in this totally creepy, horrific game forever.

[18:21] Kristen: It's kind of like a lose lose situation. They decide to play the game and realize that they have changed a lot over the years as a result of the trauma of losing this friend. And they learn that they have to work together if they're going to survive the night and survive the challenges in order to get out of the game.

[18:47] Marissa: All right, so one thing that I love about this book is that we have a really fun, really dynamic cast of characters. And this is one of my whether it's a trope or I don't even know what you would call it, but one of the things that just hooks me, if I know that I'm going to have an ensemble cast and I get to enjoy seeing the banter and the emotions and the anger and the drama, the conflict, all of that. So for you, did you always know that it was going to be told from multiple point of views? Did you always know you were going to have this ensemble cast and how did you go about developing them and developing these characters?

[19:32] Kristen: Yes. There are four points of view. Four points of view.

[19:39] Marissa: You're laughing, and I don't know why.

[19:41] Kristen: Because I just finished the sequel to this and there's five okay, I think.

[19:49] Marissa: I may guess who the fifth. I will tell you.

[19:51] Kristen: Article five, my first book has one point of view. It's like, let's just add some more every year. Let's just add a few more.

[19:59] Marissa: Why not? Isn't that the case? I do think that as we get further into our career, we're constantly like, okay, now how can I make this really difficult for myself?

[20:08] Kristen: Yes. And one of my characters is a gamer. And I will tell you, she's kind of obsessed with the concept of leveling up. And I feel like that's what we do as writers, right? Like, okay, time to level up. What is the new challenge for the next book completely? And one of the new challenges for this one, honestly, was a rotating cast of characters. And I will say one of my favorite things as a writer is doing ensemble casts. I love that. I love bringing in new perspectives. It becomes very challenging at times, especially when people are in different physical places, and how to bring them all together. Logistically, it is a challenge. But my writer heart really does love working out the dynamics between characters. And these characters have a lot of dynamics. One thing that I did as a therapist, so I said I had worked and got a master's degree in social work, and then I went on to become a mental health therapist. So a licensed clinical social worker, if that's familiar to anybody. But one of the things that I did during that time is I worked with soldiers who were returning from combat, who had PTSD. And so the concept of PTSD has always been really important to me and fascinating to me, and PTSD, but also just trauma like responses to trauma. And so these people have been traumatized. These four main characters have been traumatized by losing this friend when they were young. And as a result, their personalities have shifted in a way that all the things that bound them together as kids, they've now gone the opposite direction away from. So now that they're forced to interact again, those bonds that were so tight when they were young have now been just severed, and they have to rebuild them in order to survive. And that was so fun for me to work on, she says with a wicked laugh. I really enjoyed that dynamic of people who talk to each other, who remember who they used to be, but now can't stand each other because they're so different. And are they really different at the heart? Or are they reacting out of self preservation and just trying not to let this horrible thing happen again? And that is something that all four characters have learned and are having to deal with in this story. So I have Emerson, who was like the smartest girl in school, very social, very supportive of friends. As a result of this, she's now a complete loner. She's obsessed with game worlds, she's obsessed with gaming. She has dropped out of school. She is alone. I have Madeline, who was just, like, happy to be everyone's friends, brave, daring, a real adventurous person. As a result of this, she has become meticulous about rules and terrified of breaking those rules because you know what happens when you break rules. Terrible things happen. So she is an athlete. Her whole life is about attending to details and being the best and not failing under any circumstances. And then I have Owen, who was shy and reserved and a clumsy kid who has just absolutely gone headfirst into acting, because acting is safe, because you don't have to show who you really are, you can be somebody else. And that has become his safe place. But does anybody really know him? Yeah. And then who am I missing? And then there's DAX, who has just a lot of baggage. I guess I can't say too much about him in his baggage, but he has a lot of baggage and has also changed as a result of this loss and is just kind of wandering at this point. And he's become a musician and he's kind of attending to those rules and those laws of music because that's kind of all he has to hold on to. But he needs this friendship so desperately, but just will deny it at every turn and just rely on his sarcasm so he doesn't have to face the reality of his life.

[24:57] Marissa: Yeah. So do you do a lot of character work and have a really firm grasp on who each of these characters is before you start writing the book? Or are you kind of developing them and learning about them as you go?

[25:13] Kristen: I think I have a pretty good grasp before I go in, but I did work on them a lot with my editor afterwards. So I wrote this story and I worked on the characters and who they were and who they'd become. But then editing became all about drawing out those character traits to just razor sharp levels, so that who they were just really came through.

[25:45] Marissa: Yeah. And what about Ian? Because Ian is the boy that got left behind that's now kind of haunting them, that they go back into the game wondering if maybe they can save him in some way. And we get, like, little glimpses of who Ian was and what their relationships were to him and how he was kind of like the hub of their little group. Was he also a character that you spent a lot of time thinking about before you'd started writing Ian?

[26:19] Kristen: I will say that's interesting. Ian really evolved kind of later on in the process, and I think because he wasn't on page as much, he was kind of elusive to me until I got to the point when all of the characters have their breaking points and realize, holy ****, we need to rely on each other, right? Like, we need to leave all this stuff behind and come together. And it hit me then and I think he is like so many people in so many friend groups, there's that one person that connects you right there's, the glue in every friend group. Oh, he's how I know her. And he is the reason we all come together, because he loves this restaurant or whatever it is, right. There's always that one person that can segue between everyone, that connects everyone in your group. And Ian was that Ian was the glue. And so when a traumatic thing happened, especially a traumatic thing that happened to Ian, they all fell apart. They all went the opposite direction, and nothing was there to hold them.

[27:24] Marissa: Did you have a favorite to write from, a favorite perspective?

[27:33] Kristen: Gosh, I really loved writing from them all. I really love writing DAX because he's so sarcastic, and actually, Emerson is very sarcastic, too, so I loved her. She has this tough exterior, but she's like the burned marshmallow, right, crunchy on the outside, but she's all goo in the middle, and she doesn't want anyone to see. And that is my favorite kind of character to write, my absolute favorite. And then Owen is such a playboy actor, just thinks he's so much cooler than he is. I love them all, Marissa. I love them all.

[28:15] Marissa: That's a poor answer. All right, I want to ask a question. I'm going to have to tiptoe around some things because, of course, we avoid spoilers. There are a couple of really big twists, and I did not see them coming. I will just say that I was very surprised and absolutely delighted with them. Did you always know? Were you always working toward those? Do you ever get surprised by your own twists?

[28:46] Kristen: I would say okay, so for this book, one of the twists totally surprised me. The other one I had planned from the very beginning. I love that. The other one surprised me because it only surprised me because of the twist that I knew was coming, if that makes sense. So that was one thing that I was like, oh, my gosh, and now this can happen. Amazing.

[29:19] Marissa: I love that.

[29:20] Kristen: I want to know which was which.

[29:21] Marissa: You'll have to tell me off the recording.

[29:23] Kristen: Yes.

[29:26] Marissa: All right, let's talk about so you mentioned how a lot of this sprang up out of Japanese Tuesdays, and it's very rich in Japanese mythology.

[29:37] Kristen: Yes.

[29:40] Marissa: Were there times I mean, I assume there have to be, but maybe not. I could be wrong. Were there times when you kind of struggled with how much do I keep from Japanese mythology? How much do I deviate and go my own course? How were those decisions made?

[29:56] Kristen: I will say I played with it a lot. I did not feel particularly bound to tell the stories exactly as they are in mythology. For people that are familiar with Japanese mythology, Izanami makes an appearance, the goddess of death. I have Kuchisaki, who is a character, kuchisaki Ono, who wears a mask. The old story is there's a mask over her face, but she hides a cut face beneath, and she asks people if they think she's pretty, and if they say yes, she takes off the mask and shows them and then cuts their face to match it. And if they say no, she just kills them. So another great lose lose situation.

[30:47] Marissa: Like a pleasant lady.

[30:49] Kristen: Yes, a real pleasant lady. There's a guy that comes out of toilets, and there's all kinds of yokai that are just so delightfully terrible and exciting and disgusting. And I just wanted to pull threads from all of them, honestly. Like, I wanted to just take the parts that I found most exciting and make it in to a story that felt right to me. So I would say it's all inspired by Japanese mythology. It's not retellings of Japanese mythology. And I think that has to do a lot with being a person of mixed heritage myself. And as a person of mixed heritage, I pull sides of my own upbringing and my own life into everything I do. And so that was a big part of this story, is pulling on the threads that made a complete world for me.

[31:50] Marissa: I really appreciated how you kind of tackled this challenge. Like, when you're writing a world that's pure fantasy, then readers just expect it. We know we're in a magical world, and we just go along with the magic. Whereas in this book, you are combining contemporary the real world with normal contemporary teenagers who then fall into this magical fantasy world. And so it brings up these questions, but how is this possible? And where are we? And how did we get here? And I love that you never really answer it, but you give potential answers, like, maybe it's an alternate universe. Maybe this world created our world. Maybe our world created this world. And I love that you kind of play with these different possibilities at the same time, knowing that it doesn't really matter. That's not the point of this story.

[32:48] Kristen: Yeah.

[32:51] Marissa: And I think a big part.

[32:52] Kristen: Of that was knowing the reader would be figuring out the story alongside the really is this story really is like a hot rush to the finish. Like, trying to solve these challenges, trying to solve this game, trying to escape these dangerous yokai that are all very murderous and want you dead. But also, like, where are we and how did we get here? And what is this place? And, yeah, as an author, I don't tell you anything. You have to figure it out right there alongside the characters. And they are really trying to puzzle it out as they go through because it's essential to their survival. So I wanted readers to feel that pressure, too, right? Even if we don't know the answers to things, I want you to feel the pressure that they're feeling of being lost in this place, that they. Don't understand.

[33:47] Marissa: Yeah. And you set yourself up for another interesting challenge because you even say at various points in the story that this world changes. It's almost like a living thing where it kind of adapts to whoever is playing the game. And it's like, of course, in writing fantasy, we talk a lot about how magic has to have a set of rules. Do you feel that your magic has a set of rules? Did you overly complicate yourself that for yourself? Or how did you kind of, I don't know, formulate that?

[34:23] Kristen: Well, I will say, Marissa, I do love to overcomplicate things. You are right about that. But, yeah, I think a big idea from this book and something I worked on a lot and something that my editor and I talked a lot about is the fact that this world that they fall into is a living world. And a big concept which doesn't really make it onto page, but I wanted people to feel is this idea in Japanese shintoism, which is the idea of kami, which is the idea that there is a living spirit in all things. And that is what Mieiro is. What this world and this game they fall into is. It is a constantly evolving land world filled with spirits. And as the game progresses, the game is feeling them and reading them and changing with them and what they know and what they believe in terms of the hard rules of magic. And that is something I have struggled a lot with in books before, too. Right. Is yes. Create a magic system. Have your rules. Yes. This story was different. This story definitely was like, what are the beliefs that I want to impart onto this story? Well, one of them is not necessarily a traditional Western belief about fantasy. One of them is a more Eastern belief that there is a living, changing spirit in this land that these people have fallen into. And how will that adapt as they go through it?

[36:10] Marissa: Yeah, I love that. And I loved that just element of it, too, because it really does you feel like there are set rules at the beginning. Okay. Seven challenges. You defeat the seven challenges, you get your friend back, maybe you get to go home. But as you learn that things are changing, and you kind of start to get this feeling that like, oh, this world is just messing with them. They're just being manipulated, these poor children.

[36:39] Kristen: Yes, absolutely. And that was one thing also, that was really important to the story, too. Right. The world is changing and shifting beneath them, but the game is still operating as a game. You have to complete the challenge, solve what's going on to get the prize. Once you get the prize, you level up. Right. Go to the next challenge.

[37:08] Marissa: How did you come up with what the challenges were going to be?

[37:11] Kristen: That took more work. Yeah. So I had challenges. And then I went and my editor and I had a lot of meetings where we were like, let's look at these challenges more. And we spent a lot of time working on them. And the prizes for the challenges, which I won't say what they are, but the prizes took a lot of time to kind of figure out what they would be and just kind of just make it as gross as possible. A lot of people, when they say, how scary is this book? I always say, oh, I don't think it's scary. It's pretty gross, though.

[37:52] Marissa: To it, for sure.

[37:53] Kristen: Yeah, it's definitely like that body horror. That scary monster horror. This is a book you're not going to have to wait till the last page to figure out who the scary bad guy is. This is a book. There's going to be a monster in the first chapter, and you're going to see after that. Yes. And every chapter after that, you're going to see them. They're going to be right there, and they're going to be oozing and dripping and bleeding and being gross. Yeah.

[38:22] Marissa: I love that you refer to the prizes, I guess, as prizes. So this is not a prize that anybody wants.

[38:32] Kristen: You don't want an eyeball? What's wrong with you?

[38:36] Marissa: I want another one. Okay, I have, like, 8 million more questions on my list of questions for our chat today, but we are running out of time. So the last thing I want to talk about before our bonus round I am so excited that this is a duology because you leave us on a cliffhanger. How is book two coming along?

[39:03] Kristen: Oh, my gosh, I am so delighted to say that I just finished my revisions for book Two yesterday.

[39:11] Marissa: Congratulations.

[39:14] Kristen: I am so delighted to have those done before the first book launches and before I go on tour. And so I can be able to just have that freedom to be like, oh, I know what happens. I know what happens to all these people that I'm about to torture for you. Oh, God, that so there's something really delightful and sadistic about that. But yes, I just finished edit, so that will be going back to my editor soon, and I am so happy with where it is and how it all wraps up. I'm so happy with it.

[39:51] Marissa: I love that that's one of the most joyful moments in the whole writing process, when you not only hit that milestone, but when you hit that milestone and feel really good about it.

[40:02] Kristen: Yeah.

[40:04] Marissa: Did you always have a plan for book two, or did you write book one and then think, oh, now I need to figure out the next step?

[40:12] Kristen: Yeah, I had a really basic plan for book two because I knew how I wanted essentially, I knew how I wanted it to end. And a couple of turning points, but I didn't have all the details figured out. And I remember talking with my editor early on in the process of book two and me being like, I think it's going to get weird. And her saying, Kristen, anyone that reads book one is going to expect it to be weird.

[40:43] Marissa: That is very true. That is very true.

[40:46] Kristen: You've set some yeah, it gets weird. I can promise you that. It gets real weird.

[40:53] Marissa: I'm so looking forward to it. All right, are you ready for our bonus round?

[40:58] Kristen: I'm so ready. I don't know what it's going to be and I don't know anything about it, but I am just so ready.

[41:07] Marissa: All right. What book makes you happy?

[41:10] Kristen: What book makes me happy? Oh, my gosh. A house in the Cerulean Sea.

[41:15] Marissa: Oh, I just got that one. I've got it on my shelf. I haven't read it yet.

[41:19] Kristen: Oh, my gosh.

[41:19] Marissa: Read it right now on this podcast.

[41:23] Kristen: I read it a while ago, but I recently just gave it to my mom and I'm like, mom, you have to read this. You're going to love it. And she did it's.

[41:33] Marissa: Everything all right now that book two is almost wrapped up, what are you going to be working on next?

[41:43] Kristen: I have a story that is I won't say too much about it, but I'm really proud of this story. This is a story that I've been working on that is about my great grandmother's internment in a camp in World War II. So she's Japanese. She was interned for the whole of World War II in camp in Texas. So it's about.

[42:12] Marissa: Went to we have an annual fair, big Washington State Fair. Happens really close to us. So we go every year. And the fairgrounds were used as an internment camp during World War II. And so it's always this just totally weird thing for me to be walking around the fairgrounds. I love the fair. I look forward to it every year. But there's always that little bit of like but it has a really sad history, this place to it this place where we now have so much joy and laughter.

[42:42] Kristen: That's kind of wonderful, though, right? Look at what this has evolved into. Respect the history of it, of course, but also something good has come here.

[42:53] Marissa: Yeah, no, that's a good way to think about it.

[42:55] Kristen: Yeah.

[42:56] Marissa: Lastly, where can people find you?

[42:58] Kristen: Oh, my gosh. You can find me at I'm mostly on Instagram. It's kris 10. W-R-I-T-E-S. So Chris Ten writes that's instagram I'm on Facebook and you can always go to my website, which is Kristensimmonsbooks.com.

[43:23] Marissa: Awesome. Kristen, it was such a joy to have you.

[43:25] Kristen: Oh, same, same. It was so nice to talk to you. Thank you so much for having me.

[43:30] Marissa: Readers definitely check out. Find him where you left him dead. Perfect for the Halloween season coming up, and it is out. Now, of course, we encourage you to support your local indie bookstore, but if you don't have a local indie, you can check out our affiliate store that is at marissamyer. And don't forget to check out our merchandise on Etsy, instagram and tpublic. Next week, I will be talking with John Connolly about his long awaited sequel to the book of lost things titled The Land of Lost Things. If you're enjoying these conversations, please subscribe and follow us on Instagram at marissa. Amyer author and at Happy Writer podcast. Until next time, stay inspired, keep writing and whatever life throws you today. I do hope that now you're feeling a little bit happier.